Worried about losing your data in a disaster? Ask your IT team these questions.

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Ask your IT teams to answer these questions quickly: If your company’s servers crashed today, are you confident that they would be back up within 15 minutes? Do you know where your data is hosted? Do you know where the host’s backup sites are located?

Then ask: Does your disaster recovery plan include AI?

Questions like these show how transparency is often the best hedge against natural and man-made disasters, hacks and cyberattacks and other unfortunate events that can cause enterprises to lose their data. Executives should have the answers to these questions. IT teams that can’t provide them are probably derelict in their duty to protect their company’s digital assets.

More questions for IT teams

If business leaders find themselves looking for new IT teams after posing these questions, they should consider some additional inquiries for new vendors who claim to understand their pain and have the means to fix it.

1. Are prospective vendors conducting routine drills? If potential vendors aren’t practicing transitions from primary to secondary systems and other backup moves at least semi-annually or annually, they won’t be ready to execute a recovery when real-life challenges arise.

2. Do they have public-facing materials explaining their own recovery assets and processes? Data recovery vendors should have a website and substantial public documentation on their systems. They should also provide plans and hardware both for prospective customers to review and for existing customers to use. Any vendor should be comfortable sharing specifications on their servers, location of servers, qualifications of personnel, availability for assistance, guaranteed uptime and typical response time for both routine and urgent requests for assistance.

3. Are they clear about how they will communicate? Phone? Chat? Jabber? Slack? Email? In general, consumers of disaster recovery services want potential vendors to work on platforms their employees are already comfortable with. No CTO wants to elicit office-wide groans after telling employees they have to master strange new software to work with an outside contractor.

4. Are their plans feasible? Peruse the materials. Do they make sense? This is where the adage, “There are no dumb questions,” comes into play. Be comfortable interrogating prospective vendors about their solutions. Make sure services can be customized for your business and will respond quickly and appropriately. A five-minute data gap may mean nothing for one business. But for another, such as a national bank, even just minutes of downtime could mean tens of thousands of annoyed customers who can’t deposit or withdraw their money.

5. Do they ask you who will assume the CTO’s role in your business if the CTO is indisposed? This is something any vendor should want to know: Does the backup CTO possess the knowledge or access to information necessary to protect the company’s data? Are there operational redundancies built into the rest of your team, so no one person has a monopoly on critical knowledge?

6. Do they deploy AI in disaster prevention and recovery? This question is arguably the most important one for companies seeking digital transformation. AI can help monitor risks and enable calm, careful prevention strategies instead of last-minute scrambles. AI can also support a fast, comprehensive disaster response.

Why is AI essential?

First, AI can continuously track a wide variety of factors, from server power use to potential incoming malware, process huge data sets and keep learning from them. For example, in the event monitoring senses an imminent collapse, AI can help orchestrate IT systems to move to new servers or add servers.

Second, when a disaster strikes, AI can help systems self-heal, remediating the causes and effects of downtime.

Third, and possibly the most appealing aspect of AI in disaster recovery, is that the technology is a powerful preventative. The best disaster is no disaster at all. AI can help eliminate the conditions that leave a business vulnerable to ransomware, for example. The battle against ransomware was named a critical tech trend for 2022, according to Info-Tech Research Group.

The analytical functions of AI can boost cybersecurity by ensuring compliance with data protection laws, including sensitive patient health information protected by federal law (HIPAA). AI can schedule the latest patches and updates to increase protection against cyberthreats, providing the best-in-class IT service and asset management.

AI can also help mitigate the risks facing human resources and enterprise service management, by automating access restrictions according to job role, issuing new equipment or ending data access swiftly when an employee departs. It can also help align data recovery and security strategies within new hybrid workplaces.

Lastly, AI can help any business learn from a crisis. It can gather automated feedback from all users who interfaced with a disaster recovery system and ensure processes are in place to avoid similar disasters and accelerate recovery from them.

The contemporary threat environment is constantly shifting, from banal hardware glitches to international data pirates and ransomware hackers who frequently change tactics and locations to stay ahead of detection. AI can scan the threat environment, detect vulnerabilities and help IT professionals stay up-to-date without the need to closely track technical literature for the latest threats.

AI will by no means make IT security professionals redundant. Rather, it’s a vital partner. The combination of qualified IT teams and premiere AI solutions transforms the quality of disaster response and prevention. AI’s rapid detection of anomalies in networks and human behavior, and its ability to alert human professionals swiftly, will make any business’s security more agile and comprehensive. It’s the best tool that IT teams can use to make sure that businesses land on their feet in case of disaster.

Tim Lawes is senior manager of solutions consulting at Symphony SummitAI.